The human mind is a very interesting thing indeed. This past week in particular, mine has been reminding me just how adept it is at avoiding subjects it finds uncomfortable, regardless of the passion with which I want to examine and express them.
When I saw the presentation given by Jerry DeWitt, the first graduating member of
To say the least, it wasn't the encounter I intended. I was at a loss as to why my normally extroverted personality had been so thoroughly smothered in a thick layer of self-conscious nerves. It wasn't until much later, long after I'd returned home, that I was able to rationalize my reaction. On the surface, it had been a big week and I was feeling pretty stressed the day of Jerry's talk. Lack of sleep, physical exertion, a fairly hectic schedule, and a LOT more socializing than I was used to had left me raw and more vulnerable than usual. Beneath those reasons, however, lay a series of revelations that disturbed me.
I eventually realized that my nervousness stemmed, in part, from an oppressive feeling that I was unworthy to approach him, a feeling that was firmly linked to Jerry's (former) position as a minister. While the church I "grew up" in treated all of the men in the congregation as ministers, those leading the churches I attended as an adult commanded a respect that ranged from the fawning admiration typically granted rock stars to an unquestioning reverence more suited to gods than men. These were not mere humans that one simply approached as an equal, they were set apart and sealed by God Himself. The criticism and ridicule I so easily heap upon "men of God" now that I'm an atheist is really no different than the criticism and ridicule I was able to heap upon the ministers of denominations and faiths other than my own when I was a Christian. Confronted with a (former) minister "on my side", however, I found that old sense of reverence once again over-powering my sense of self worth.
This revelation quickly led to two more: religion had affected me more deeply and in more ways than I had previously realized, and I clearly hadn't left religion behind to the extent I believed I had.
Sadly, I'm not unfamiliar with how the mind copes with buried pain. I am thankful, however, that my past experiences have taught me how best to deal with those emotional graveyards - dig up the bodies, break them down for fertilizer, and plant seeds in their place. I've spent the last few weeks unearthing damage inflicted by the individuals, events, and teachings tied to my former faith. I fully expect to uncover rot in places I haven't yet thought to look, and to trip over the corpses of my religious past long after I think they've all been processed. I hope to examine that damage here in the blog, and with others who have dealt with, or are still dealing with, similar issues. As for seed planting, I've recently signed on as the volunteer webmaster for Recovering from Religion, and I've started a Denver chapter which will begin meeting as soon as I've found an appropriate venue. It's an incredible organization, and I'm proud to be a small part of it.
As a result of even these first tentative steps, Jerry DeWitt has lost his unwitting and unwanted powers of intimidation. Somehow, I don't think he'll mind. *laughs*
The TL;DR -
1. Religion fucked me up more than I thought it did, but I'm healing.
2. I want to explore my experiences with religion in the blog, but it's hard.
3. If you, or anyone you know, could use a little help in moving on from a religious past, please visit the